Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2024

Mercedes’ set-up experiment on Hamilton’s car “massively backfired”

Formula 1

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A drastic set-up change on Lewis Hamilton’s car “backfired”, the team admitted, after he set the second-slowest time in Friday’s second practice session.

Hamilton ended the hour of running 18th on the times sheets, one-and-a-half seconds slower than pace-setter Charles Leclerc and eight-tenths of a second off George Russell in the other Mercedes. He only lapped quicker than Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, as Williams driver Alexander Albon did not take part in the session.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said they “experimented” with different set-ups on their two cars “but we haven’t unlocked performance.”

“In the second session [we’ve] gone through a really quite dramatic set-up change on Lewis’ [car] and that has massively backfired,” he told Sky. “But this is why we’re having those sessions.

“On the other side it was a bit better, but we were lacking performance. I think on a single lap if he finished that lap we’re a bit better but overall it wasn’t a good day.”

Mercedes has endured a poor run of results since the current technical regulations were introduced in 2022. The team’s latest F1 car is a significant departure from its predecessors.

Although it has shown signs of promise, notably when its drivers headed the times in second practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the team has not been able to sustain it over a race weekend so far.

They lie fourth in the constructors championship after the first two rounds and Wolff admitted he is dissatisfied with their progress so far.

“If I would say that I’m not frustrated, it would be not the truth,” he said. “Certainly we are because we’re trying so much in all directions but don’t seem to have found that silver bullet yet which helps us to get us in the right direction.

“But we’ve got to keep trying. We’ve seen the performance of this car before. I just don’t want to go back and say we’re just not good in these regulations because we have everything we need in order to get on top of that. And we will.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “Mercedes’ set-up experiment on Hamilton’s car “massively backfired””

  1. Why does this keep happening?

    1. Still at sea about how to use what the car is supposed to offer to them according to their simulations?

      1. @bascb – If that is the case though, that seems to indicate that the simulators may not be reliable (either the GR&A are off, or something in the programming). This has been multiple designs and years now where they supposedly have pace or performance that they just can’t unlock. I don’t think the performance is there and they are off base.

    2. why do battered wives keep going back. because wolff can and will use up lewis to punish him for leaving or not being controlled enough.

  2. Expecting a new concept to work 3 races in while others have been refining their’s for the past 2+ years seems like huge over confidence on Mercedes part.

    1. Well the Ferraris seems to be quick right away after changing concept also this season

  3. Strange that it’s always Hamilton and never Russell. Sounds more like Mercedes are covering for his poor driving at this point.

    1. even with info you stick to your biased nonsense. puh

      1. Well let’s see who out qualifies who tomorrow. It’s not bias, I’d actually like to see Hamilton winning again. The fact is that he’s been some way off Russell for the last 6 races now. Those 1-2 tenths used to be a position or two behind, now it can be the difference between P3 and P10.

        Last race Hamilton said his poor qualifying was due to a better race set up than Russell. Russell has said he’s not sure what Hamilton it talking about because they were close on set up and Russell was very race focused too. Hamilton race pace was no better than Russell, so I tend to believe him.

        1. you cant know because they didnt double stack, and the softs were worthless.

    2. Could very well be. Although he always was a slow starter to the season and usually picks up the pace during. Let’s see. I would replace him around the summer break anyway in case Mercedes wants to bring in some-one new that is currently not driving a F1 car. Better to have the new kid make some mileage. I don’t recall Lewis having made an impact on car development but I could be wrong. He doesn’t come across as a Schumacher or Lauda character that knows every bit of the car.

    3. Strange that it’s always Hamilton and never Russell.

      It’s not that strange, Russell provides the comparison with the normal approach. Given that Hamilton is generally quite comfortably the faster of the two, having him to do the experiment is more useful since he can more reliably get the most out of it.

    4. Opinion is free but basing it on information always helps: Hamilton has always been given the more left-field experimental setups to test. If he can’t make it work, it’s definitely not workable.
      Of course your comment will receive an anti-Hamilton pile on by the perennially uninformed. You’d think after a few years some information and basic insight into F1 would seep through, but apparently not.

  4. I holenwe don’t get the ‘Hamilton sacrifices himself for the team to find the setup’ spiel again.

    Taking a risk in order to gain an advantage is just that, and when it doesnt work you havent sacrificed anything, your risk just didnt pay off lime you wanted

  5. Every hour Lewis spends behind that car, makes his Ferrari decision make more and more sense. LOL!!

    1. as a fan of Lewis, watching the same thing play put for the last 2.5 years is getting old. just so toto’s couch buddy can take credit off of Lewis.

      he cant be rid of that lying team fast enough.

    2. @banbrorace Totally! (or Totolly maybe).

  6. Mercedes seem completely lost with these regulations. How many times have we heard some variation of “we tried an experimental setup and it backfired”? It’s pretty rare that a setup change will unlock a huge amount of performance, usually teams just make marginal gains over a period of time. McLaren did make significant gains with upgrades last season, but that is with bringing new parts, not just setup changes. I still feel that changing their design philosophy with only two years remaining before the next regulation change might have put them even further behind their competitors, but it is still early in the season so maybe they will finally ‘unlock the potential’ of the car at some point in the coming races.

    1. Well in all fairness their past advantage and success was largely due to the engine performance. The rocket ship. I don’t think their car was ever particularly good, but had way more bhp than any other.

      1. Well in all fairness their past advantage and success was largely due to the engine performance.

        It wasn’t the engine power that was targeted by regulation change, it was the famous Y250 vortex mastership.
        Think back to the Ted Kravitz cheese slice episode. A big triangular chunk of floor edge removed by the regs, with the specific target being the main effect point of that vortex.

    2. they arent lost, russell is overrated and Lewis has been #2 ever since Massi denied his world title.

      1. @pcxmac Sometimes I do wonder if Hamilton should have left Formula 1 then, at the end of 2021, as he says he pondered for long weeks before deciding to stick with F1 and Mercedes. It’s why I was excited about the Ferrari move, at least it’s a reboot. But even so. Psychologically it was clearly a massive blow. Perhaps jumping to another series would have been spectacularly successful and it would have certainly given Formula 1 the huge blow it deserved for allowing Abu Dhabi to happen.

  7. Another stupid comment from Hamilton: “FIA president has never had my backing”.
    He should zip it for his own good.
    Maybe concentrate more on driving? Last in practice is not that great.

    1. you even cant read timetables? wow

    2. Interview question: ‘does the FIA president have your backing?’
      So you prefer a non-answer or lie to someone responding with what they honestly think? I thought it was a great response.

      1. He is the legit FIA president, rightfully appointed by due process. He must have the backing of every driver. It is not optional: even if my wording of the comment was a little angry considering it was breakfast time :))

  8. Seems this is also due to the cost cap
    Can’t throw unlimited resources at the problem or multiple designs
    Once you locked into something and it’s wrong you are stuck
    Everyone in the same boat

    1. this is why they created it in the first place, to keep things as they are.

  9. To be honest, Mercedes are doing much worse than I expected, even after two bad years (for their previous standards and for their current resources). Sure Hamilton says his motivation now is to get a win or two, but more of this and you have to wonder what possible motivation he’ll have for the rest of the season. Maybe time to get some advice from Fernando.

    1. Could the new Merc strategy be reliant now on the Horner crisis destabilising RB from within ….It might just work for them.

  10. The picture reminds me of the “Cross Country Mexican ’16 Massive Ch34t”

  11. Tiaki Porangi
    22nd March 2024, 23:20

    Pretty obvious now that Hamilton was once again right with his big decision to leave Mercedes – right call at the right time.

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